Character design: pirates

Working as a board game artist

I work on board games a lot, I nearly always have one in my schedule. I pretty much spend half of my time as a board game artist. The other half as a book cover artist. With a smattering of additional world building or character design pieces in between.

One of the reasons I love working on board games is that it is similar to getting a large world building project for an author’s setting. You get multiple pieces to build a consistent theme and aesthetic. Quite frequently these are spread across character design, item design, vistas, or map making.

Crew member character design for a pirate board game

Fabled Games are now flashing all the art online I’ve been working on for their pirate board game. I’ve already posted the box art I did for them, and a large fresco of a pirate ship being boarded. Make sure to follow their Facebook page for more updates on the games forthcoming release!

The pieces above are two crew members from the game. Each crew member has a role within the ship so that influenced the design in these cases.

Board game character design process

Similar to how I design my book covers, there are a couple of stages of sketch and feedback with my client. But more often with character design like the crew above, I quite like to work from blocked out silhouettes. This way I can get a real feel for the character’s shape, then use that to sketch details over. Chopping into the silhouette where necessary. I have made several videos of other characters I’ve worked from this board game, I will post them soon!

Otherwise I tend to sketch the overall shape, then block in a silhouette (demonstrated in my old video of a dwarf below). Regardless of which way round I do it, the next stage is to add the shadows. This brings in the real “3D” values to the piece. Further to that, I add some highlights. Once the black and white image looks pretty solid, I begin to colour the piece. I quite often go back and forward over this, and my initial palette idea may get entirely replaced if I stumble on something I like. Often I use a complementary additional light source if I can (the blue rim light, to the warm orangey tones of the dwarf’s face below). I find that really helps to set up the image and make it “pop”.

Finally I’ll add some little specular highlights and maybe some texture if I feel it’s not come through in the original brush strokes.

If you need board game artwork

If you’re looking for a game artist or book cover designer, feel free to snoop through my illustration portfolio or head straight over to contact me for work. You’ll find my email address and some handy forms which guide you through some of the starting info I’ll need to be able to quote for you. Typically I’m booked up a month ahead of time, but do drop me a line if you have anything time sensitive. Sometimes I’m able to move things around in a pinch. Hope to hear from you! In the meantime, stay informed of my new work and availability and sign up for the mailing list.

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I love my job. I’ve always wanted to be an artist working on fantasy settings, creating worlds that give people real escapism and suspend their disbelief. One of the things I love is the interaction with people who are following my work. Hearing comments, and seeing my work make it’s way around the world makes me so happy! So please go ahead, share my posts with people you think would like them. It really helps me to continue to do what I do.

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